My second big custom show of May was of course The Bike Shed show at the Tobacco Dock in London. Yet again the show featured a wide range of customs along with the informal atmosphere that makes this show a must for my sketchbook activities.
Rebels Alliance Honda CB
Red Max BMW
The Gas Box, 1950 Norton Dominator
(ink sketch with gouache)
I was quite taken by this beautifully simple Norton custom built by Jesse Bassett of Gasbox Customs. Jesse’s first job in the custom world was sweeping the floor at a shop at the age of 10.
The genesis of this build was born out of a trip out to a large barn an hour outside of Cleveland in search of Norton Commando parts. The barn was full of British bike parts and the owner said there was an old Dominator engine in among the piles of parts – two hours later, Jesse had dug the engine out. Two years later, while talking through a commissioned build with an Australian customer, Jesse remembered the Dominator engine. The mention was met with much enthusiasm, so Jesse started the process of a two year build, which was completed in 2015.
The frame is custom built to suit the rider and was styled around the Norton ES2. The girder forks were made from scratch, influenced by a Webb design. The engine has been tuned, by taking the 500cc Dominator up to 600cc with different barrels and crank, parts being sourced through the Norton Owners club here in the UK. Further tuning was done by installing larger valves and cleaning up the ports, plus the cam was reground to a more performance-oriented profile. For show, the engine cases were polished and the cast iron head and cylinders were nickel plated.
The main aspects of this build I think work are the simple choices and attention to small details that make this a pure motorcycle with just the right balance of original and custom made elements. Original Norton fuel and oil filler caps are used on the custom tanks, a six volt lighting system and a single Smiths speedo all help to make this a classic motorcycle with a modern twist. The Norton has been built to be ridden, but shares the show aspects of the Venom such as nickel plating to make elements really stand out.